The overcoming of limits is often valorised. We see something commendable in not only the action that overcomes successfully, but even the aim or intention. Thus, failed attempts to push limits also carry a special pathos. From this we often draw the too hasty conclusion that would have us believe in the pure negativity of a limit, as if in their being overcome something is then being restored to its proper and rightful proportion.
However, at the same time it is also easy to see how limits incite their own activities of overcoming. The act that would overcome them, whether successful or not, is called to action by the strange attractive force of this limit. In fact, everywhere action is dependent on a limit for its sense. That is to say, limits often prove productive, and perhaps not only insofar as they incite their overcoming.
When we perceive in a limit only a negativity or lack, we miss this inverse side. Not the ‘beyond’ of the limit, which is always perfectly clear from the point of view of negativity, but rather the ‘interior’ of the limit, where the motivating force of action is engendered. Isn’t the fun part of setting-out the mapping out of points of demarcation, of spaces of possibility, a play-field that we will play against? But isn’t setting-out also a confrontation with openness, with that which defies all definition? A strange dialectic emerges, where a force desires at the same time its enclosure in a well-defined territory that is no less defined just because its limits have been ‘overcome’, all the while resisting this tendency by sketching out more and more new frontiers. A masochist insurrection.
Perhaps it’s better here to reformulate the talk of limits into that of conditions. A small shift, to be sure. But here we no longer have a geometric image, of new territories but unending borders, but instead the act of overcoming becomes one of a thing’s redefining its own conditions. That is to say, the creation of the new.